Last weekend the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs proposed a way for disgruntle iPhone users on the AT&T network in the USA to protest against the behaviour of AT&T. This also sparked the creation of a Facebook Fan page.
Although I do not agree with Operation Chokehold. From what I know of the quality of service AT&T customers receive in the USA, I do agree that AT&T needs to improve their network infrastructure.
3G GSM networks requires a dense cell configuration and AT&T may not have enough cell towers to cover the vast areas that their network serves. On the other hand, playing the devil’s advocate, AT&T’s 3G network, like the ones in Australia, is still immature compared to other 3G networks around the world, so the US population needs to give the company time to build up the network to a more mature level.
All the user complaints about the iPhone in the US and Australia are not specific to the iPhone, but the iPhone just exposes these deficiencies in the respective networks due the ease of use of its data capable applications.
In comparison, we in Hong Kong has a very mature 3G network (over 5 years) and the GSM network has been around for almost 10 years. There are 7 mobile carriers serving a population close to 7 million in an area smaller than Manhattan, NY.
Having cellular signals in subway stations, subway trains, parking lots 6 – 7 levels below ground are expected by all HK cellular users. As I recall this is not the case in North America. Most people only expect “good” cellular signals when they can see the sky.
Having said that. I think AT&T needs to be more up front with their customers, accept the fact that their network in inferior compared to other 3G GSM networks around the world. Their network is not yet ready for the iPhone and its users. AT&T had underestimated the data demand of iPhone users.
Instead of blaming iPhone users or trying to restrict iPhone users from using AT&T’s data network with increased data tariff plans, AT&T needs to acknowledge these deficiencies in their network and focus on improving the network, rather than spending unnecessary money on marketing or PR to improve their company image. As the saying goes, delivering good service to customers is the best marketing and will speak for itself. Case in point, Apple Inc.